His wife? Hadyn wanted me to be his wife? A haze filled my brain as his fingers traced the line of my collarbone.
He pulled the robe part way down my arm before the haze in my brain cleared and I pushed against him. He pulled back far enough for me to sit up and scoot away from him.
“I wouldn’t become Cassius’s wife. What makes you think that I will be yours?” Pulling the robe tightly across my shoulders, the sides of Hadyn’s mouth turned up in a smirk.
He was amused.
“I see why my brother is fond of you,” Hadyn said with a chuckle. He stood from the bed and went to a nearby table, pouring himself a glass of blood from one of the glass decanters sitting on its surface. He took a sip before returning to perch on the edge of the bed.
“What do you want, Hadyn?” I asked. I couldn’t out why Hadyn had saved me or why he had gotten involved in the first place.
I knew why Cassius held a claim on me—my blood. My (according to Cassius) mixture of revenant and human blood was an anomaly. I was nothing more than a lab rat for him to poke and prod as he pleaded.
The high priest summoning me was easy to explain to. Of course, he knew what Cassius was up to; all good leaders keep watchful eyes on their subjects. The high priest thought I was predestined into existence by God, both a blessing and a curse as he put it.
Cassius and the high priest both had their motives, but not Hadyn. Or at least, I couldn’t figure out what his motive was.
Hadyn tipped the glass up to his lips and poured the rest of the thick red liquid into his mouth. It was blood—I knew it was, but it was easier for me to think that he was drinking wine rather than the blood of one of the workers in the lower city.
“I wanted to add you to my harem,” Hadyn replied. “I think you could make life a little less boring.”
His harem? How many wives does he have? No, why do I care about how many women have fallen prey to his seduction? I don’t care. “I will not be one of your conquests.”
His smirk turned into a full-blown smile as he walked back to the table and poured himself another glass. “I could make you.”
“And I could kill you,” I snapped.
“I am more than a thousand years old,” Hadyn replied. “Many have tried to kill me and failed.” The breath caught in my throat. He is more than a thousand years old. That shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. What is it about the revenants? They look young or at least no more than thirty, but they are ancient. “It would easier for you to join my harem and become my wife rather than to be cast from the city.”
“I’ll take my chances outside the city walls,” I replied.
“As you wish,” Hadyn replied. He downed the glass and set it on the table before leaving the room. Within a few minutes, there was a knock on the door and an ashen man entered with a pile of clothes in his hands. He placed the pile on the bed and exited the room.
It didn’t take long before Hadyn returned to my room. When did it become mine? I really had to stop claiming things as my own, especially rooms that belonged to the revenants.
He handed me a long black robe and told me to put it. I obeyed although I was unsure what he was about to have me do.
Leading the way, we descended the stairs and once again I found myself on the subway train. It lurched forward unexpectantly. Had it not been for Hadyn standing so near, I would have fallen to the floor of the subway car. Landing in his arms, he helped me into a seat before disappearing through a door at the front of the car.
I guess he went to speak to the conductor of the train. The car passed several platforms before Hadyn returned. “Our stop is coming up,” he said flatly. I grasped the arms of the chair in anticipation as anxiety welled through me. “Are you sure you would rather leave the city than join my harem?” He walked behind my seat and pulled my hair away from my ear. Bending close, so close that I could his breath on my neck, he whispered, “I could make it worth your while to stay.”
“Nope,” I replied. “I would still rather live outside the walls with the cannibals and the wild beasts than submit myself to a revenant.”
“Well, if you ever change your mind,” he said as he placed a metal pendant attached to a long silver chain-linked necklace in my hand. The pendant was a little larger than the fatter part of my thumb with an etching of a large bird atop a mound of flames.
“What is this?” I asked as I flipped the pendant over in my palm.
“Use this when you decide that you have had enough,” he replied.
“Enough braving the wilds,” he chuckled. “Show that to the guards at the wall and you will be allowed back into the city.”
I started to give the pendant back to him, but he turned and walked to the door of the subway train. The car squealed as it can to a stop on a familiar platform. I was once again on the platform beneath the consulate building. Hadyn didn’t look back to make sure that I was following him as he ascended the stairs and we entered into the brightly lit front room.
I blinked my eyes several times as I tried to get them to focus after having gone so long without sunlight. The tall windows showed the sun was a little more than midway through the sky. Had I been at the nursery, I would have been trying to hurry and finish my row.
I missed working at the nursery (to my surprise). I mean, yes, the job was fulfilling and purposeful—feeding the hungry children within the city and all, but I didn’t think I would miss it as much as I did. Looking down at my hands, my nails are trimmed and clean—not a usual occurrence for a person who works with dirt for a living. It wasn’t just my clean nails that made my breath catch in my throat. It was the way my skin looked. It was healthier than I had ever seen it, without a scratch or blemish.
Walking over to the nearest window, I stopped to inspect my refection. My hair had grown longer, curling outward at the edges, its color darker and more vibrant than I remember. My face was less angular than it had been showing some of the weight I had gained during my captivity (probably because I had eaten more food during my captivity that I had in my entire life).
“Are you coming,” Hadyn asked as he stood in the doorway of the consulate building. My eyes met his for the briefest of moments. The ice blue in his eyes was soft, softer now than had been earlier in the bathing room. I shook my head to clear the thought. I need to keep a clear head around Hadyn. The last thing I need to do is get distracted by thoughts of what happened in the bathing room earlier.
“Coming,” I replied and followed him through the door sucking in my first breath of fresh air in days. Hadyn led me through the city. I thought he was going to take me back to the nursery at first, my hopes becoming aflame with the desire to see Val before I leave, but that flame was quickly extinguished when he turned towards the western wall of the city.
We passed by people on the street as we continued to walk towards the wall. It wasn’t until I realized that no one was paying attention to us that I really started looking around. Hadyn was navigating us through the part of the city where the upper class lived.
Their homes were tall and slim, lined side by side down the street. Some of them had flowers hanging below their windows. It was very different from the living standards of the people in the lower city. We are given apartments with very little room, whereas these homes had two and three stories, and had ample space for a family to live in.
Hadyn grabbed my hand when I stopped following him to stare at a family walking down the other side of the street. A small child walked between her parents, stopping only to swing between their arms. Her laughter carried across the street as her parents continued with their walk, lazily taking their time, happily as a family should be.
Anger stirred in me as Hadyn pulled me along. I knew I shouldn’t be angry after witnessing the tranquility of the family, but I was. I never had the chance to walk along the street with my parents, enjoying the beauty of the day. Life in the lower part of the city was rushed. People didn’t take their time to enjoy their surroundings.
We worked from sun up to sun down and then hurried off the streets praying the gangs wouldn’t catch us unprepared. Our lives were hard, not relaxed. Hadyn rounded a corner and the family disappeared from sight.
“For a person who wanted to leave,” Hadyn said. “You sure are resistant.”
I pulled my hand from his grasp and crossed my arms against my chest. He turned to face me, his brow cocked on one side. “I am not resistant,” I replied. “Actually, I am more than happy to leave the city.” I pushed past him in anger, knocking into his shoulder. I had every intention of strutting straight up to the wall and telling the guards to open up the gates so I could leave without turning to look back, but of course, that didn’t happen.
My feet became tangled as I knocked into Hadyn and I fell forward, landing on my hands. My palms stung as I pulled them up to inspect the damage. There were two gashes along the bottom side of my hand. Blood poured from the wounds and dripped onto the ground.
Hadyn bent down at my side and pulled my palm closer to his face, the ice blue in his eye darkening as he looked at the blood. My heart pounded in my ears, and I started to pull my hand away from him, but he held tight. He was stronger than I was, and I wasn’t getting my hand until he decided to release it.
He stared at the blood for about a minute, in silence. It was awkward watching him stare at my palm as the blood flowed from beneath the skin, his eyes narrowed. Pulling my hand closer, his tongue racked my skin cleaning the blood. His irises widened as the white of his eyes disappeared into the hues of icy blue. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.
I should have been scared and frantically pulling my hand away from him, but I was too shocked to do anything. I knew Hadyn was a revenant, but I didn’t expect him to drink blood from me.
He pulled away, his lips wet and red with a smear of my blood. My shock dissipated, and I tugged my hand out of his grasp. “You….” I started but couldn’t manage to find the words to finish the threat prying its way out of my mouth. “You…. You…”
“You taste good.” He said as he stood and wiped the blood from his lips, sucking it off his thumb. His eyes had returned to normal, the blue had receded, and the whites of his eyes were where they should have been.
“You….” I was still on the ground looking up at him, the words stuck in my throat. He reached down and grabbed my shoulders ushering me back on to my feet.
“I? I what?” Hadyn asked. I reared my hand high and slammed it against his cheek, the slap jarring my arm.
“You fracking,” I yelled as I cradled my hand to my chest.
“Language,” Hadyn warned, his lips turned up in a smirk. “That’s not very ladylike.”
“You drank from me,” I yelled.
“Yes,” Hadyn replied as if it were not a big deal. “Yes, I did.” He turned and started down the street towards the wall. I had half a mind to run up behind him and kick him in the back of knees but decided to show a bit of caution. The revenant seemed to be unbreakable. Instead, I followed behind him giving him the deadliest glances I could manage while silently cursing him inside my head.
“You should say thank you,” Hadyn said as he continued in front of me.
“Thank you for what?” I asked.
“It is a rare treat to drink blood from a human,” he replied. “We (meaning the revenant) find that as sacred as marriage.”
“I won’t thank you for drinking my blood.”
“I graced you with a privilege most humans will never receive,” he argued.
“You didn’t grace me with anything,” I argued. “You raped me of my blood.” His jaw fell open in surprise, but he quickly put on the same smug expression I saw him use with Cassius. It is a look that exuberates power and control making others he stood near feel insignificant in comparison.
“I gave you an honor,” he said. “Drinking blood from you is just as sacred as the act of accepting you as mine. It is a bond that only a husband and wife should share.”
He stepped closer cupping my cheek with his hand, the warmth of his skin nipping at the chill in the air. A laugh escaped me as I thought about his earlier offer to join his harem of wives.
“You have a harem of wives,” I continued. “Drinking my blood by force is no different than collecting a wife by force.”
His smug expression disappeared. “By force or by choice, I still collect a wife.” I wanted to argue but it was pointless. I could tell I wasn’t going to win this conversation. Obviously, the revenant had different views about marriage than I did. Marriage should be between two people who love each other, but the revenant see marriage as a trade-off, blood for status. Hadyn couldn’t use status as a way to beguile me into marriage. I didn’t need status. Didn’t care it. There was no use.
Striding forward, I no longer wanted to follow Haydn towards the wall. He could follow me as I lead the way, the way to my new life. The way to a life without the revenants.
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