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For three years, Sebastian has lived as a blood slave, giving his blood and body to vampires. He’s a prisoner, owned by the blood house he serves. Sebastian dreams of freedom, of feeling the sun and wind on his face once again.
Valentin has earned the title of vampire prince. But status and age haven’t brought him love. When his blood craving grows too demanding to be ignored, he goes to the blood house and finds himself entranced by the spirited Sebastian.
He wouldn’t cry. He wouldn’t let those bloodsucking bastards see his tears. If he cried, it would show them he had weaknesses, vulnerabilities. He wouldn’t give them those parts of himself. They were his and some of the few things he’d been able to hold onto in this hell.
The vampires had taken everything from him. Not that he had much to begin with, but he wouldn’t let them have his emotions, his mind, his heart.
Sebastian lifted his head, gazing around his room. Or cell, more to say. He sat on the floor, his legs drawn up and arms wrapped around them. To his left was his cot and a small table beside it stacked with books. To his right, a stool and an old, rickety writing desk that he’d mastered writing on despite how wobbly it was with one short leg. He didn’t have much reason to write and anything he did put down was at risk for being taken away.
Mostly he jotted down music notes and as he did, the songs would once again play in his mind. Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, Strauss and so many others The memories of music kept him company and maybe, helped keep him sane.
There was an armoire across from him, a useless thing since his clothes were scattered all over the floor. He wasn’t messy by nature, but untidiness drove the house master, Wesley, crazy, so keeping his room messy was one of the few acts of defiance he was able to do. That wasn’t to say he hadn’t gotten punished. He had, several times. But Wesley decided long ago it was a pointless and minor battle to keep fighting. For him, it was a huge victory.
Behind and above him was a window. Though it was bricked up, same as all the windows in the manor to prevent offending sunlight from entering.
He hadn’t seen sunlight in three years. There were nights he dreamed about it so vividly, he would swear he could feel the sun’s warmth in the darkness. He missed that natural light and warmth, so very much. Same for the wind blowing through his hair and cool rain trickling down his face. Having lived his whole life in
Atlanta, snow was rare, but he still remembered the chill and icy burn of it on his fingers from making snowballs. He even missed that.
And the sky…he would love to see it again, clouds and stars, the moon and all its phases. When thunderstorms shook the manor, he wanted nothing more than to see a jagged flash of lightning, with all its power and brilliance, exploding in the sky.
His life now was nothing but walls. Closed in. Trapped. And he would die without ever knowing those things again. Just like Carla had.
Carla…he hadn’t really known her. He didn’t really know anyone in the blood house. It was safer, physically, mentally and emotionally, to not get attached to anyone. Carla had been here longer than anyone else. He knew that much about her. She was already a seasoned blood slave when he was brought to the blood house.
Sebastian let out a rough snort. He forgot, they weren’t supposed to call themselves blood slaves. House master Wesley preferred to call them “donors”, probably to make himself and the other vampires feel more justified in what they did. To be a donor implied giving something of your own free will, that a choice was involved. There was no choice here. Either surrender blood or die. And sometimes die during the surrendering.
That was what had happened to Carla and what eventually happened to all blood slaves. It was only a matter of time before that one vampire came in and couldn’t control his or her hunger. What was the vampire’s punishment for taking an innocent life? Nothing. The monsters were simply told, “be more careful”. Not because there was any regret over the blood slave’s lost life, but because finding a replacement was troublesome to the house master.
It wasn’t as if anyone was going to come looking for the lost blood slave. Everyone in the house was like him, runaways and throwaways, wanted and missed by no one. And vampires? They didn’t exist. Not to larger human society. Certainly vampires hadn’t existed to him until he had been picked up off the streets by Wesley, brought here and had his head smashed against a desk and a pen shoved in his hand for him to sign away the rights to his blood.
This blood house was nothing but a whorehouse for vampires. They paid, they fed, they fucked. For the blood slaves, the house was a prison, one where the only escape came with the last exhaled breath.
Sebastian tipped his head back, resting it on the brick wall. He wondered when that would come for him. Not long now, he was sure. Carla was hard, smart and tough, and the vampires did her in. Her life lost to the fangs of a vampire, her body wrapped in black silk and carried away to be buried in an unknown, unmarked grave.
He had seen others carried away like that. So often, he and the other blood slaves were kept locked away, not allowed to see any of the vampires’ workings. But he thought Wesley let them see the bodies taken away as a warning and to keep fear alive in the blood slaves.
In the past two months, he had noticed a change in Carla. She was always bold, but she was becoming openly defiant. Sometimes she refused to come down for selection, when the blood slaves would appear before a patron to be selected for the evening. He had even heard her getting short-tempered and disrespectful to some patrons. If there was one sure way to end your life, it was to show disrespect toward a vampire.
A dark thought loomed at the back of his mind, one he feared was true. Carla had purposely been acting out to end her life. She wouldn’t be the first blood slave to commit suicide by vampire. Many who could no longer handle being imprisoned saw it as their only way out and it wasn’t hard to do. Fight the vampire trying to feed, get them into a rage and it was guaranteed to bring a quick death. Or a prolonged one, depending on the vampire’s mood.
Sebastian’s mind conjured images of Carla, all the things that could’ve happened to her on her final night. Torture, beatings, her body slashed and ripped, blood soaking silk sheets, splashed across the walls of the gaudily decorated boudoir.
He hoped with all his heart his imaginings were wrong. That she’d passed as peacefully as possible. He hadn’t seen the room she’d been in afterward since it was closed off. But he had seen one before where a blood slave had gotten killed and those were the images he conjured now. He hadn’t heard any screams the night Carla was killed, but he never did. The boudoirs for entertaining were spaced far apart and soundproofed.
Vampires highly valued their privacy.
Still, he hoped it’d been quick and painless for her. That weak hope was all he had and he wasn’t sure if it was for Carla…or himself.
Musical chiming sounded through the manor. Dusk was approaching. Time for the blood slaves to prepare for the evening.
Sebastian closed his eyes, filling his lungs with a deep breath, exhaling slowly, breathing in again. He needed to center himself and bring up his walls to face the night and what it brought. After a few moments, he was ready.
He pushed to his feet and walked toward the door. He turned the knob and pulled. The automatic locks were unlocked. Stepping out, he found the hall empty save for one of the guards, not a vampire, but Benny, a human kiss-ass. There were some vampire guards who shared in the blood house’s profits, but the human kiss-asses got nothing other than a sense of superiority over the blood slaves and the hope of being made a vampire someday.
Sebastian kept his gaze forward as he marched down the hall, waiting for the inevitable taunt.
Benny folded his arms across his chest. “I’m going to have to tell Master Wesley you were ten minutes late coming out of your room.”
“It was only five.”
Benny unfolded his arms and stepped out to the middle of the hall, blocking Sebastian’s path. “You arguing with me?”
Sebastian stopped two strides away from him, meeting Benny’s eyes with an unwavering glare. “No, I’m correcting you. And it doesn’t matter when I get to the showers so long as I’m downstairs before the first patron arrives, right? And that’s not going to happen if you don’t get out of my way. Then I’m going to have to tell Master Wesley that you were delaying me, with the proof recorded for him to see.”
Sebastian flicked his hand back toward a video camera mounted near the ceiling. Other than the boudoirs, there was nowhere in the manor where blood slaves were permitted that wasn’t monitored.
A twitch near Benny’s left eye betrayed his restrained rage. The guy probably would make a good vampire if he was ever given a chance. Short temper. Air of self-importance. Adept at being a pompous ass. Yep. Benny had a lot going for him to make a great vampire. Except looks. That was one thing he had to give to vampires. All the vampires he’d seen were attractive. And Benny…wasn’t.
Benny took a half step to the side. “I can’t wait for the day you get drained.”
Sebastian walked forward. “You’ll get your wish soon enough, I’m sure.”
He reached the large bathroom at the end of the hall. Four showers lined the wall opposite of the door. A long counter with several sinks and a mirror stretching the length of it ran down a side wall, toilets and bidets on the other. All toiletries were provided for them; high quality soaps, shampoos, conditioners, colognes, perfumes, lotions, oils, anything and everything needed to pamper the body. None of it was meant for their pleasure, though. It was to please their vampire patrons.
Young men and women crowded the bathroom, many not bothering with clothes or covering themselves as the prepared their bodies. Embarrassment or shame had no place here. It was a big adjustment for him when he was first brought to the blood house, only seventeen years old, still not even comfortable changing and showering in the locker room with other guys his age. Of course, a lot of that was because it was so hard for him to keep his thoughts—and body—under control.
Back then, there was the fear that if the other guys found out he was gay, they’d hurt him. It was one of the reasons he’d joined the track team in the first place, trying to do something his parents considered more masculine than music. He was too small for football. Too short for basketball. Too bored by baseball. So that left track. Or wrestling, and no way would he have made it through his first practice without a hard-on.
Here, no one cared if he was gay and he wasn’t the only gay blood slave, but when it came to being selected, sexuality didn’t matter. If a female vampire wanted him, he didn’t have a choice. Same for a straight male blood slave if he was selected by a male vampire, and for the women as well. All that mattered was what the vampire wanted.
Spotting an open shower, Sebastian headed toward it, keeping his head down and avoiding eye contact, not wanting to talk with anyone. He went through his shower and preparing his body with the same mechanical motions he did every night he was to be a part of the selections. Master Wesley was kind enough that after being chosen for a night, he gave a blood slave a day to recover.
Finished and dried from his shower, he wrapped a white towel around his hips and went to the sinks, leaving his discarded clothing on the floor. Wesley would know who’s they were. He blow-dried and styled his hair, brushed his teeth, spritzed on some cologne and left for his room.
As he walked inside, he tugged the towel off his waist and let it dropped to the floor. He went to the side of his room where he knew his clean clothes were scattered. Scanning the floor, he spotted his gold silk jock. He reached for it and pulled it on, adjusting his package and the straps.
He crossed the room to the writing desk and opened a small wooden box. Flicking through the assortment of cheap jewelry, he selected two gold barbells for his nipples. He hadn’t been pierced before being brought here, but to further entice the vampire clients, Wesley had him pierced. Two vampires held him down while another sat on his hips, driving the needle through his nipples. If it hadn’t hurt so much, he would’ve taken the rings out for the holes to close, but he knew Wesley would just have him pierced again. The piercings had eventually grown on him and he liked them now.
He replaced the steel rings he currently wore with the gold barbells. His gaze landed on the only other accessory he’d wear for the night, a gold hip chain with strands of gold beads all the way around it. He fastened it around his hips, the beads hanging just long enough to cover his ass. They rolled over his ass cheeks every time he moved, and he knew how tantalizing they were to watch.
It was one of the things he’d learned during his time here. Little was more when it came to dressing for an evening of being laid out for vampires and sensuality would keep him alive. Acting as though he reveled in the vampire’s touch, craved their fangs, all drove up the beasts’ enjoyment of him. The more they enjoyed him, the greater the chances they wouldn’t become frustrated and kill him. But how long could he continue the act?
The answer whispered through his mind, not much longer. Every night he spent with a vampire, it became harder. He was growing weaker. His walls battered too many times. They were starting to crumble, he could feel it.
Once again, musical chiming sounded. It was time to go downstairs. The first patrons would be arriving soon.
Sebastian closed his eyes, giving himself another brief moment to fortify his walls with what strength he had left. He slowly opened his eyes and walked toward the door. Who knows? Maybe tonight would be the night he’d get finally to leave the blood house…wrapped in a shroud of black silk.
Valentin guided the classic Jaguar E-Type up the long dirt drive, heavily wooded on both sides. The flicker of yellow lights through the trees told him his destination was close, not that his instincts hadn’t. He could sense the other vampires and also, death. It hung over the area and weighed down the atmosphere.
Such as it was with these blood houses. Some were reputable. Some were vile establishments. Judging by the dark aura hanging over this one, he’d label it as the latter. He tried to avoid blood houses as much as possible, but when one had gone too long without feeding—or was too lazy to seek out food, of which he wasn’t—the blood houses were convenient. He didn’t plan to use this place often, but since he’d been so busy with finishing his move from England to the States, he hadn’t time to do a proper hunt.
As much as he disliked blood houses, they were necessary evil, he supposed. After all, they did provide safety for feeding. When he’d selected Savannah, Georgia as his new home, knowing there was a blood house easily accessible was a nice perk. If only he’d come to investigate the blood house himself. He would’ve known it wasn’t a good establishment and could’ve planned his feeding better rather than relying on the blood house.
Maybe he was being too hard on the place since he hadn’t yet been inside, but the weight of death was deep and strong. More than if there’d been some unusual instance recently. It seemed death happened far too frequently here.
It was a shame the houses weren’t regulated better. He’d seen many where the blood slaves were treated horribly. Correction. Donors. He’d forgotten that was the fashionable term used these days. Ridiculous. Why not call them what they were?
In some houses, the humans may have a choice, but it wasn’t that way for all. Regardless, if such was the case here and the blood slaves looked abused, he’d leave. He had a couple of days yet before the craving became uncontrollable.
To sustain himself, he preferred to feed at least twice a week. He was now pushing a week and three days. It was his own fault, his own stupidity, and he needed to satiate himself before he became a danger. Hence, a visit to where he wouldn’t normally come.
The trees thinned and the house came into full view, a colonial mansion of red brick. All of it was brick other than the door. Not a window was to be found, only the shape of where they’d been with bricks in place of glass. A bit extreme. Yes, the sun was bothersome, but it took standing out in direct light for a while before becoming sick, for entire day to grow ill enough with sun poisoning to die. And since the blood house was only open to patrons at night, it hardly seemed a safeguard for vampires.
A low growl rumbled in his throat. No. It wasn’t to protect vampires. It was to limit a means of escape for the blood slaves. Things were looking less and less appealing here.
Valentin swung the Jaguar around in the circle drive. Only a couple of other cars were there, so it seemed he’d arrived early enough. He gazed up at the whitewashed door. He didn’t want to go in. No matter the location in the world, no matter how the house looked, all blood houses were tainted by his memories.
The press of his memories and past weighed down his mood and he hadn’t been in the best of moods when the evening began. He fought to keep the memories from the front of his mind, not wanting to see that sweet face framed in pale-blond curls and feel the regret and foolishness it brought.
The tightness that would close around his heart every time he thought of Malcolm was gone. He no longer missed Malcolm, though he did wonder about him from time to time. H couldn’t go to a blood house anymore without thinking about him. While the love he once had was faded into nothing more than a whisper of memory, simply remembering Malcolm made him feel weak.
And weak, in emotion, mind or body was never a good state for a vampire to be in.
Or maybe that weakness came more from the lack of blood. It wasn’t only his physical body that suffered from going so long without, his mind did as well. It made it harder for him to fight those memories and old emotions.
Valentin stared at the blood house. Inside were sources for blood. Hot and succulent blood, to give him energy, strength and life. To spread warmth and pleasure through his body, make it easier to keep his mind calm and steady. He wanted it. He craved it. He needed it.
Valentin turned off the car. He’d made the trip. He might as well go in.
He grabbed his cane off the passenger seat and slid out of the car, deciding with the warm August night, he’d leave the top down.
Valentin climbed the steps to the front door, knocking with his cane’s gold handle, finely formed to be the head of a dragon. On his third knock, locks clicked and the door started to open. The vampire on the other side stared at him with wide eyes. It would seem the other vampire had already spotted his ruby and gold ring, the mark of his rank among vampires. A vampire prince paying a visit here must be a rare thing.
The vampire bowed his dark-blond head low and swept to the side to allow him to enter. “Your highness, welcome to my humble establishment.”
Valentin stepped inside, gazing around the space. “Thank you. It’s lovely.” This was where his skills at lying proved their worth. It wasn’t lovely. It was gaudy with cheap décor that made poor work of intimating true antiques and baroque style.
“I’m very flattered you think so. I’m the house master, Wesley.”
Valentin offered his hand. “A pleasure. Prince Valentin Wyndham.”
“What an honor it is to have you here, sir. I think you’ll find my selection of donors to be very fine. You’ll never want to visit another blood house after the care you’ll receive here.”
Valentin locked his gaze with Wesley. The fool was laying on the false flatteries a bit thick. Hardly a few words passed between them and he already wanted to slap this vampire. He knew Wesley’s type, a leech. One who’d suck onto anyone who was stronger and more powerful. “I doubt that. To be honest, I rarely visit such establishments as yours. I prefer to find my own sources of blood rather than leeching off blood slaves, as if they’re little more than captive cattle. But I’m new to this region and time hasn’t allowed me to do a proper hunt, so I’m forced here.”
Valentin barely restrained from allowing a pleased smirk to cross his lips and forced his expression to remain cool and aloof. The offense on Wesley’s face brought him such satisfaction. This one needed to be put in his place. Clearly, Wesley thought himself and his establishment far finer and more important than either were.
He could already feel it, annoyed anger brewing deep inside him. This was one of many reasons he didn’t care to interact with younger vampires. They had no class or couth and carried an overinflated sense of superiority. It all made him want to ever so elegantly backhand Wesley across his ignorant face.
A sigh passed through him. Going so long without blood had not only weakened him against his emotions, it’d made him more temperamental than usual. Not a good thing when preparing to feed. It was fine to lose his temper with this fool before him. He didn’t want to lose it with someone undeserving.
His jaw visibly tight, Wesley inclined in a stiff bow to him. “Of course. I’d expect one so powerful to prefer hunting for himself. Shall I take your jacket and cane, then show you the donors?”
“No, you may not. Simply take me to the blood slaves.”
And there was the offense again, with a hint of anger underlying it. Perhaps this evening would turn out to be fun, after all. Taunting this house master was massively amusing.
“Very well.” Wesley turned, walking toward double wood doors. “This way, sir, if you please.”
Valentin walked behind him, lightly swinging his cane. As Wesley opened the doors, Valentin thought he was going to be repelled back from the stench of overly perfumed bodies. His eyes and nose burned, but he pushed down the discomfort and stepped in. Young men and women lounged on loveseats, sofas and chairs, some idly chatting with each other. All were barely clothed and attractive, but none were appealing to him…
His thoughts halted as his gaze landed on a young man standing near the cold fireplace, away from everyone. Golden-blond hair fell to the tops of his shoulders, parted to the side and laying more heavily to the left. His body was slender, his skin fair and pale. Lean muscle lined his chest and abdomen. From his profile, Valentin could see full lips and a face of soft features. The young man wore only a gold silk jock with a chain about his waist, beads hanging down and forming around the curves of his ass.
Gorgeous. The young man was absolutely gorgeous. Valentin couldn’t stop staring at him.
The young man looked toward him. As Valentin met the blood slave’s brilliant blue gaze, he became even more entranced. Not exactly a common thing for him, especially since he was used to being the one doing the entrancing.
Wesley clapped his hands. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very noble guest with us this evening, His highness, Valentin Wyndham. Line up for selection. Quickly!”
“That won’t be necessary.” Valentin lifted his cane, pointing with the end of it at the blond. “I’ll take him.”
Wesley snapped his head toward him. “Sebastian? But you’ve hardly looked at the others. If you’d take a moment to look at the other donors, you might find one you’d prefer—”
“Why? Is there something wrong with him?”
“No! No, not at all.”
His patience nearing an end, Valentin allowed a growling tone to enter his voice. “Then why can’t I have him?”
“I didn’t say you couldn’t, your highness! Only that, he might not be the best suited for you. His attitude hasn’t been very good as of late.”
“I can handle attitude. And I think I know better than you what suits me best. So is he available or isn’t he?”
Valentin held Wesley’s gaze, watching him wrestle with himself in trying to decide what to do. What could possibly be so bad about this beautiful young man? Perhaps the blood slave had some spirit in him, in which case, he’d be a very well-suited match.
Wesley broke their gaze. “Of course he’s available for your pleasure.” He looked toward Sebastian and snapped his fingers. “Take his highness to the north boudoir.”
Valentin studied Sebastian as he walked toward him. He could see the loathing in Sebastian’s gaze as he looked at Wesley. Not hiding his hate was an act of spirit and defiance. Valentin smiled to himself. This was going to prove to be an interesting night. He hadn’t yet traded words with his companion, but he liked him already.
Sebastian stopped in front of Wesley. “Why are you calling him ‘your highness’?”
“It’s not your place to ask questions!” Wesley snapped. He looked at Valentin. “I apologize for him. As I said, his attitude is poor.”
“What’s so poor about him asking a question? If anything, he’s seeking enrichment through knowledge.” Valentin shook his head at Wesley. “Shame on you for denying him that.” He brought his gaze back to Sebastian, unable to deny the arousal humming through him at meeting Sebastian’s bright blue eyes again. “He refers to me as ‘your highness’, because among vampires, I’m considered a prince. Haven’t you been educated on our hierarchy?”
Sebastian shook his head. “No, sir.”
Valentin looked to Wesley again. “More shame to you for that.” He moved to Sebastian’s side, resting his hand on the small of Sebastian’s back. The young man tensed under his touch. This one had been badly mishandled. His single touch to Sebastian told him that. He could sense nervousness, even slight fear, emanating from him. Beneath those, heavy sadness. “Come. Let’s go and I’ll explain it to you.”
Sebastian nodded and walked forward.
Valentin caught the piercing glare Wesley fixed on Sebastian. He didn’t know the full situation, but he didn’t have to. The animosity was clear and that would mean bad things for Sebastian if he didn’t obey Wesley.
He caught his thoughts before his sympathy could take hold. It wasn’t his problem. Whatever the issue was, it wasn’t his and he shouldn’t get involved. Sympathy and getting involved in a situation he had no business in was what brought him too much trouble and heartache in the past. He needed to feed, leave, forget and never come back.
He let Sebastian take the lead as they reached the broad staircase, his hand slipping off him. He watched Sebastian climb the stairs, his gaze riveted on Sebastian’s ass, the beads lightly tinkling as they clicked together, rolling over the soft, cream-colored skin of the rounded cheeks. An internal sigh passed through him. He wondered if he’d just made his best decision in a very long time with selecting Sebastian or his worst.
©2014 by S.J. Frost and Ellora’s Cave